With his sixth release as a leader The Deep Below, low reedman Brian Landrus continues to explore the bottom octaves of woodwind registers with his characteristic elegance and captivating charm.
What sets this album apart from its predecessors is the sparseness of its setting. Backed only by bass and drums, Landrus places his various instruments at the core and center stage of all the tracks. The result is a raw yet sophisticated showcase of these infrequently heard horns and their deliciously dark tonal flavors.
Landrus opens his own composition "The Beginning" with a solitary bass saxophone prelude. His remarkably agile handling of this unwieldy sax sets a delightfully mystical mood. Double-bassist Lonnie Plaxico takes an eloquent solo that enhances the intrigue while Landrus improvises with soul and bravado over Plaxico's thumping lines and drummer Billy Hart's subtle brushes and throbbing beats.
Landrus' bass flute hangs like a dark expectant cloud over the rhythmic ebb and flow of the cinematic "Ancient" that Plaxico and Landrus collaboratively wrote. Plaxico demonstrates sublime lyricism with his achingly gorgeous monologue before the head is restated.
Hart and Plaxico engage in a stimulating and percolating duet on another Landrus original "Onebro Treaty." The eastern-spiced tune features Landrus on his bass clarinet laying down lithe smoky phrases. His complex meandering extemporization, brimming with poetry and passion, is inventive yet accessible, cerebral and simultaneously emotive.
Landrus lets loose a flood of baritone sax notes with unbridled spontaneity on "Giant Steps." He deconstructs the piece with ardor and ingenuity making his unaccompanied performance an apt homage to legendary saxophonist John Coltrane the composer of the standard.
The Deep Below is a bold yet quite melodic statement on the harmonic possibilities of the fuller, more sonorous members of the single reed family. It is, however, far from an academic exercise as it shimmers with rich, vibrant colors and a gamut of engaging ideas and sentiments. It is a relatively new but inevitable direction for Landrus' career and hopefully a preface to longer and more complete experimentations yet to come.
Track Listing: Fly; Sophisticated Lady; The Beginning; Fields Of Zava; Giant Steps; Will She Ever
Know; It Comes Together At The End; Just A Fading Memory; I'm A Fool To Want You;
Orebro Treatment; Ancient; Open Water; The Age; Once Again.
Personnel: Brian Landrus: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet, bass saxophone, bass flute; Lonnie
Plaxico: acoustic bass; Billy Hart: drums.
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